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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Edward Zwick
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers, Benu Mabhena, Anointing Lukola, Antony Coleman, Arnold Vosloo
Writing Credits:
Charles Leavitt (and screenplay), C. Gaby Mitchell (story)

Tagline:
It Will Cost You Everything.

Synopsis:
An ex-mercenary turned smuggler (Leonard DiCaprio). A Mende fisherman (Djimon Hounsou). Amid the explosive civil war overtaking 1999 Sierra Leone, these men join for two desperate missions: recovering a rare pink diamond of immense value and rescuing the fisherman's son, conscripted as a child soldier into the brutal rebel forces ripping a swath of torture and bloodshed across the alternately beautiful and ravaged countryside. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai), this urgent, intensely moving adventure shapes gripping human stories and heart-pounding action into a modern epic of profound impact.

Box Office:
Budget
$100 million.
Opening Weekend
$8.648 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$56.220 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
French

Runtime: 143 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 3/20/2007

Bonus:
DVD One
• Audio Commentary with Director Edward Zwick
• Trailer
DVD Two
• “Blood on the Stone” Documentary
• “Becoming Archer” Featurette
• “Journalists on the Front Line” Featurette
• “Inside the Siege of Freetown” Featurette
• Music Video


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Blood Diamond: Special Edition (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 12, 2007)

For a glimpse of issues that affected war-torn Africa in the late Nineties, we check out 2006’s Blood Diamond. The flick takes us to Sierra Leone and introduces us to Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) and his family. An ongoing civil war rages and the violent Revolutionary United Front (RUF) forces assault Solomon’s village. His wife Jassie (Benu Mabhena) and kids manage to slip away, but the RUF captures Solomon and puts him to work in their diamond mining operations.

We learn that most countries have banned the import of so-called “conflict diamonds” from war-torn areas like Sierra Leone since they fund groups like the RUF. However, smugglers still manage to sneak out stones from the hot spots – smugglers like South African Danny Archer (Leonardo Di Caprio). This doesn’t always go smoothly, however, and Danny gets arrested.

In the meantime, Solomon discovers an enormous diamond. Despite the potential punishment of death for hiding a stone from the authorities, Solomon makes off with this gem and hides it in the woods. RUF leader “Captain Poison” (David Harewood) almost takes it from him, but an assault by government forces disrupts this exchange and sends Solomon to jail.

The same jail, as it happens, that currently contains Danny. When Poison demands to know the location of the diamond, Danny overhears it. Danny immediately schemes to get the stone for himself, and he arranges Solomon’s release to expedite this process.

While on the lam, the RUF abducts Solomon’s son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) and forces him into military service. When Solomon finds the rest of his family and learns this, he resolves to find and rescue his son. Danny agrees to help with this – if Solomon gets him the diamond. The movie follows their dual pursuits as well as Danny’s interactions with sexy American reporter Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly).

Right out of the gate, Diamond looks like it’ll become something special. The scenes with the RUF present a brutal look at the state of affairs, and the film launches us into a story that appears involving and intriguing. Yeah, the pairing of Danny and Solomon veers toward buddy flick territory, but it creates a good framework for the tale.

For the first act, we stay involved with the strong aspects of the story. However, Diamond slowly starts to unravel after that. At its best, the movie becomes tense and dramatic, and the shots of the RUF child soldiers prove unsettling. Once we focus more on the various quests, though, the elements turn trite and dull.

This really becomes an issue in the third act. As Solomon and Danny pursue their goals, the flick turns into Lord of the Rings. Walking, walking, walking - Diamond starts to feel more like an exercise video than a story. Danny and Solomon turn into Frodo and Sam as they head toward Mt. Doom. We even see Solomon carry Danny toward the end ala our favorite hobbits!

Another Rings tangent comes from the movie’s inability to end. I can’t say I’m wild about the multiple endings of Return of the King, but at least they act as the denouement of a true epic. For Diamond, it just feels like director Ed Zwick doesn’t know when to say when. The film keeps going and going well past the end of our patience.

This connects to another problem with Diamond. As the movie progresses, it becomes less about characters and story and more about Making a Social Statement. This becomes most apparent during the never-ending finale; it exists to pound us over the head with the film’s thoughts. We get it: Conflict Diamonds bad! Hey, I won’t argue they’re not, but Zwick doesn’t need to tattoo us with his theme.

Because of this, the characters go by the wayside to a large degree. Zwick sacrifices good narrative to make sure we get the point. Not that the characters are ever particularly rich anyway. They exist as basic movie stereotypes: the mercenary who comes to care about something, the noble African, and the do-gooder journalist. Hounsou has made a career on the dignified African; he occasionally gets the chance to stretch in different roles, but this kind of part is typical of his work.

Poor Connelly gets stuck as Zwick’s proxy. That means she winds up on the losing end of some terrible dialogue. Maddy acts to remind the audience of all the issues related to the conflict diamonds. She’s essentially an expository character – a sexy one, but she doesn’t have much else to do in the movie.

Ultimately I think Blood Diamond ends up as a disappointment. It starts very well and has some interesting elements, but it fails due to its own preachy pretensions. The more we watch, the less we care, and the end product turns off the viewer in opposition to its actual goals.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Blood Diamond appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While most of the movie looked great, a few nagging issues caused distractions.

The majority of those developed in wooded areas. I thought trees tended to look blocky and without appropriate definition. This also translated to a few other scenes, but sharpness usually remained strong. Other than a little softness in wide shots, the movie showed good delineation. I noticed no shimmering or jagged edges, but some light edge haloes occurred. I never saw any signs of source flaws.

With its African setting, Diamond focused on earthy tones. This meant a lot of greens and browns, all of which looked fine. I thought the tones could be a bit oversaturated at times, but they usually seemed positive. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows worked well. Only a little thickness ever marred low-light shots. Much of the transfer was terrific, but the problems knocked my grade down to a “B”.

No significant issues cropped up via the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Blood Diamond. The soundfield helped bring out a good sense of atmosphere. As one might expect, violent sequences used the spectrum in the most active manner. Guns fired all around the room, and other instruments like trucks and helicopters zoomed from spot to spot with good clarity. General ambience was smooth and involving, while music showed good stereo imaging.

Audio quality seemed strong. Dialogue came across as natural and crisp, with no edginess or other problems. Music sounded bright and bold, while effects were clean and realistic. Low-end response appeared more than satisfactory. Overall, this was a very good mix.

In terms of extras, DVD One includes two components. In addition to the film’s trailer, we find an audio commentary with director Ed Zwick. He presents a running, screen-specific chat. Zwick looks at bringing the story to the screen, the international nature of the production, sets, locations and issues connected to Africa, cast and performances, stunts and effects, research and facts, storytelling topics, cinematography, and some shoot specifics.

At no point does Zwick ever threaten to become a fascinating speaker; he maintains a rather low-key, studious tone through the flick. Nonetheless, he covers the film well and gives us the requisite information we’d expect. Zwick gives us a pretty thorough look at Diamond and makes this a worthwhile commentary.

Disc One launches with a few ads. We get previews for Ocean’s 13, the 300: March to Glory videogame, and Sublime.

Over on DVD Two, we star with a documentary. Blood on the Stone lasts 50 minutes, 10 seconds. Narrated by journalist Sorious Samura, the program looks at the history of “conflict diamonds” and their impact on Africa. We see how diamonds currently make it to market and attempts to prevent the sale of “conflict diamonds”. We meet some former rebel soldiers and investigate the legality of various diamond mining and sales. Samura also gets involved with miners and others as he attempts to see how easy – or difficult – it would be to sell an illegal diamond.

Those elements make “Stone” a pretty good show. It doesn’t present us a great history of the issues, but it doesn’t really attempt to do so. It throws enough info our way to flesh out the topics, and Samura’s behind the scenes investigations add punch to the program. It provides a nice exposé of the current state of diamond smuggling.

Three featurettes follow. Becoming Archer goes for eight minutes, 33 seconds as it mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Zwick, stunt coordinator Paul Jennings, producer Marshall Herskovitz, and actors Leonardo Di Caprio and Jennifer Connelly. We get notes about the characters as well as Di Caprio’s research, training and performance. Heavy on film snippets and light on insight, you won’t find much detail in “Archer”. It exists mostly to praise Di Caprio’s performance.

Journalists on the Front Line fills five minutes, 12 seconds with comments from Zwick, Connelly, Di Caprio, and Herskovitz. “Line” focuses on Connelly’s preparation for the part and her performance along with thoughts about real-life inspirations for Maddy. Ala “Archer”, “Line” feels fairly self-congratulatory and it comes with precious few interesting notes.

Finally, Inside the Siege of Freetown takes up 10 minutes, 29 seconds and includes Zwick, Samura, Di Caprio, Herskovitz, Jennings, executive producer Kevin DeLaNoy, producer Paula Weinstein, special effects supervisor Neil Corbould, supervising armorer Nick Komornick, 1st AD Nilo Otero, stunt supervisor Thomas Struthers and actor Djimon Hounsou. The featurette looks at the recreation of the actual battle. We learn of the emphasis on reality plus various stunts and effects challenges. We also hear of storyboarding and planning.

After the two puffy prior programs, “Siege” works a bit better. Though it never becomes terribly detailed, it gives us a good overview of the appropriate concerns. We get a decent examination of the way the filmmakers filmed the big action sequence.

The DVD also includes a music video for “Shine On ‘Em” by Nas. The clip mixes movie clips, lip-synching and images that illustrate the anti-conflict diamond theme. The video doesn’t totally succeed, but I admire that it tries to confront the “bling-bling” hip-hop culture to connect the bloodshed to the rappers’ flashy ways. This makes it more ambitious than most.

At its best, Blood Diamond provides an involving look at how gem smuggling affects a war-torn country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t often stay at its best; the movie degenerates into a trite and preachy tale before too long. The DVD offers erratic but generally good visuals, solid audio, and a nice mix of extras. We get a pretty positive release for an up and down movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0714 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main